Life Lessons unravelled along the Ways of the Camino De Santiago (Part 3)
Buen Camino Peregrinos!
As highlighted in my previous article, I have recently walked 3 different Camino routes and from each of them I have learnt many life lessons that I instilled whilst walking the camino and will carry out in my personal and professional life. I hope you gain as much from these lessons as I have and will continue to walk your own path in life.
To see my article on the previous life lessons please click here.
Lesson #7. Roll with the punches
I choose the phrase ‘roll with the punches’ as opposed to ‘go with the flow’ which may seem quite similar but in reality they have very different meanings.
‘Going with the flow’ implies a more laid back stance and just accepting the situation and other people’s opinions which you may not necessarily agree with but go along with just because it is the easiest solution and you do not wish to exert much control over the situation. Whereas, ‘Roll with the punches’ has to do with how one copes with a situation that is presented to them, despite its complexities, and approaches this with renewed flexibility and understanding.
By nature I am generally very organised in my everyday life, follow a routine that suits my lifestyle, and admittedly like to be quite in control of the situation and when this control is compromised feel a sense of unease.
However, through my travels before the Camino and especially during the Camino I have had to approach this journey with a different mindset and outlook. To approach each day with no expectations of what is going to happen and let it all unravel how it should be. To live in the present moment and enjoy it fully. That when a situation arises that may be difficult, to approach this in a calm manner despite it potentially affecting your original plans and adapting to the situation for the best outcome possible knowing that through adopting this attitude this will lead to less stress as life can not be controlled and the more that you realise this the easier life will be.
Lesson #8. Let go
The Camino De Santiago attracts people from many walks of life with their individual reasons for walking the Camino. At times the reasons for walking the Camino change along the way or you may discover something spectacular, a revelation, that you were not even searching for along the way. Potentially a deeper understanding about yourself, others, or the world and life itself.
Many people who I met along the trail did not embark on the Camino for religious reasons, even though originally over a thousand years ago the Way to St James was embarked on as a Christian pilgrimage. This was done as a means for these pilgrims to gain plenary indulgence, which frees a person from the penance due to sins. However, today countless people have walked the Camino for their own spiritual and personal reasons with the belief that along the way they will be healed, find their inner peace, or find the answers to certain affairs or questions that could not be answered at home so they have brought this to the Camino.
I myself had certain questions and affairs that left me unsettled which played a part in my initial reasoning to walk the first 800km of the Camino De Frances. With this journey came moments of highs and lows as I walked day after day working through these concerns. I played part in the tradition of taking a stone with me as I walked the initial sections of the Camino De Frances until I reached La Cruz De Ferro. The legend states that when the Cathedral of Santiago De Compostela was being built, that the pilgrims were asked to bring a stone from their place of origin with them on the pilgrimage. Traditionally, and to this very day each pilgrim would throw the stone at the base of La Cruz De Ferro to symbolise what the pilgrim desired to leave behind so that they would be ready for rebirth on the last stage of the Camino and at Santiago De Compostela.
I am not saying that each time you or even myself have a problem to walk the Camino, but more so, this teaches us a lesson that it is part of life to go through the ups and downs but once you come across those moments when life isn’t all wonderful with sunshine and rainbows that this is your opportunity to be aware of what is happening in your life, create your own space to move through this, understand what needs to be done to rise above, and finally let go of what is holding you back at this moment to excel forward as once we do the universe will present you with new and wonderful opportunities and answers.
Lesson #9. We are our experiences
Each and every one of us are unique. I know that this sounds like a cliché but in truth this is correct. This is not only due to our biological make up but this goes so much deeper to the psychological, emotional and spiritual level and mostly the decisions that we make in our lives and our individual experiences that truly form who we are.
Last year when I decided to travel solo this was one of the clearest and easiest decisions of my life. Despite the fact that I would be giving up my job and financial support, my security, and my comfort zone. These factors alone would be enough to make many people run back terrified and not be willing to test out the unknown waters, but for me this was exciting knowing what I would gain from taking this risk of resigning from my job to travel the world. This prospect filled me with new hope and excitement. To me this gave me a spark back that I had been missing for a period of time. A new thirst for life and learning that I needed once again as at that point in time I was merely making a living and dreaming about a life, rather than living my life to its full capacity and one that I knew deep down I truly desired.
As I mentioned before the Camino is a very simple life but the experiences that it provides you with and the lessons learnt are priceless. When you are walking day in day out at such a slower pace, sometimes even stopping by a river to rest and reflect upon life you will think about what has led you to this point. You will be able to look internally to identify what honestly motivates and drives your thirst for living rather than just merely existing.
Lesson #10. It is the journey, not the destination
Each pilgrim set out with a destination in mind, an end goal to move towards. This comes naturally to all of us as in life this is what grounds us and gives us a purpose and life meaning. To have this sense of purpose we are able to attain a sense of self and achievement that we can stay connected to and hold onto as when we lose this at times we can feel lost and insecure.
However, in life and especially on the Camino it really isn’t just about reaching the destination that we have projected in our minds where we will feel that achievement will be had. We initially work towards an end goal because we believe that happiness is only reached at the this point, and the progress, the journey that we have undergone to reach our destination doesn’t matter. In actual reality the progress is what counts the most as this can change the course of our destination and our feeling about it because in this expedition this is when we truly grow and evolve.
Each pilgrim I spoke to, and myself included, felt sad and strange as we walked into the outskirts of Santiago De Compostela not wanting to arrive at the final destination that we had walked and worked so hard for because it felt surreal and that we were not ready for what we thought would be the end. That we did not want this journey to end and finish walking the path that we had come to know and love.
Upon reaching the Cathedral of Santiago the feeling of accomplishment was very special and unique, but this did not compare to the many wonderful moments that was had along the journey of meeting new and interesting people, sharing a meal or a drink together, swapping stories, reflection time at donotivos and amongst friends, feeling gratitude and appreciation for the kindness of strangers, stopping at random small villages observing the lifestyle of the Spanish people, watching the sunrises, breathing in clean fresh air, and walking along to the sound of the birds chirping and the wind whistling.
The end was not what truly mattered as all the accumulated experiences along the way made the road traveled unforgettable and this is what made us all stronger in the end, not just on a physical level. Even to this day of having concluded the Camino a week ago the experiences I had and lessons that I have learnt have not been left and forgotten at the final destination but continue with me now as I put all these lessons into place in my everyday life.
Lesson #11. Be inspired
Inspiration is defined as ‘a person, place, experience, etc., that makes someone want to do create something’.
I truly believe that as this definition states that inspiration can come in all different shapes and forms and can have a significant influence upon your thoughts and actions. It is then up to the individual on how they use this inspiration to go forth to transpire into something wonderful that can change their life for the better and may even have the beautiful domino effect of inspiring and touching others and inspiring them to create a change.
Whilst walking the Camino I found inspiration and energy from many aspects and the first was the Camino itself. The nature of walking day in day out walking in one direction once again concreted the thought of just going forward in life and living a life of simplicity without unnecessary distractions, stress and material possessions. Marveling in how the terrain of the Camino is ever-changing so that you can not foresee exactly what will be up ahead. Such as life is full of ever-changing patterns and circumstances that you need to learn to cope with calmly and rationally to keep on going. To learn and trust in yourself that you will conquer them all making yourself a stronger individual.
I also was inspired by the magic of the camino itself creating a common space and intention amongst everyone that walked the path together. That on this path there was only a connection formed with love and laughter. There was no room for prejudice or hatred, but rather only acceptance of everyone’s culture, religions, ethnicity, and social background which can be lacking at times in the outside world which was more prevalent when looking at the international news and hearing about such tragedies as the attack in Nice, France on their day of celebrating Bastille Day, the shooting in Munich, Germany, and many others around the world that may not even make the news headlines such as the violence that occurs on a daily basis in countries such as Syria that have been experiencing a civil war for the past four and a half years.
The second aspect of the Camino I was inspired by was the incredible people who I shared the trail with. Listening to their stories, their reasons for walking the Camino, what they have uncovered about themselves and life itself, what this journey has meant to them, the number of times that some people have walked the Camino, the different ages and fitness levels of people along the trail as some were in their 70s and 80s which I felt incredibly inspiring as I wish to remain as active into my retirement, people walking the Camino with their young families (yes I still intend to live an adventurous life and will introduce my future children and husband to this one day), and the changes that my fellow pilgrims would put in place after the Camino has finished.
Lastly, and potentially one of the most important and lasting pieces of inspiration that I drew and will hold close to my heart from walking the Camino was finding the inspiration and motivation from within myself.
External inspiration such as that stated above is very important to me and it is also important to be aware that what you may find inspiring may not necessarily inspire another. On the camino my inspiration, willpower, and motivation that came from within occurred and grew day by day through remembering and recognising why I had decided to make this change for myself to embark on this journey. That through each day that went on even when I woke up with the thought “I don’t really feel like walking” I still got ready, laced up my shoes and put my backpack on because my will was relentless and I knew that I was doing this for myself and no one else. That I believed in myself that I had the drive, determination, and a slight hint of stubbornness to keep on going even when there were moments that I was advised to ease off walking. With this I overcame every challenge that was presented to me and this made me realise that I am so much more capable than I may have thought before because I forced to be stronger in the face of these obstacles.
In this instance, this is where and when an individual will transcend to self-actualisation as identified in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The highest level of need when people become more self-aware, concerned with personal growth, less concerned with the opinions of others, and more concentrated and interested in fulfilling their own potential as this is what creates self-love and being proud of your own achievements and success.
Final note and conclusion for now…
Whichever path you are on in life currently or heading towards treat this like your own Camino De Santiago. If you wish take the lessons that I learnt from my own experience whilst walking the Camino yourself or using these lessons to guide you in your own life please feel free to do so because all of these shaped my understanding of myself, people surrounding me and how I view life.
Another life philosophy that I believe in is ‘Carpe Diem’ which means seize the day/opportunity and this is also another thing that the Camino has reinforced that these moments that make up our life are fleeting and can not be retrieved again so enjoy each one that comes along even if it brings momentary pain with it because this is what it is to be human. To feel all the emotions and the highs and lows of life that are meant to be enjoyed and cherished. Life is too short to walk around blindly so open your eyes and hearts to everything that is available.
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